Lila, reviews

Queens And Cultural Appropriation | The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King Review

Title: The Hundredth Queen
Author: Emily R. King
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Lauren Ezzo
Running Time: 10 hours, 6 minutes
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary: As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.

In Emily R. King’s thrilling fantasy debut, an orphan girl blossoms into a warrior, summoning courage and confidence in her fearless quest to upend tradition, overthrow an empire, and reclaim her life as her own.

As fun and (surface level) entertaining as The Hundredth Queen was and as much as I wanted to love it, it had some serious flaws that I honestly just can’t overlook. If you’re looking for something quick and fairly entertaining and you can overlook the possible problematic representation of Eastern cultures, then I’d say have at it. Otherwise…This may not be the book for you.

I’ll start out with what I enjoyed. The plot was fast paced and there was action and romance galore! For this reason, The Hundredth Queen was an incredibly easy read, without being too simplistic.  The trials allowed for plenty of action filled fight sequences and the court setting gives readers tons of intrigue. And, though I had issues with its pacing, there is no doubt that the romance was pretty swoon-worthy.

I also loved the focus on sisterhood and friendship. Kali’s best friend is like a sister to her and is always one of the people whose wellbeing is at the forefront of Kali’s mind. It was nice to see such a strong female friendship play such a pivotal role in a YA book.

I wish I could leave it at that and say I thoroughly enjoyed The Hundredth Queen but alas, twas not meant to be!

I’ll start with the more minor issue I had which was the pacing of the romance. Friends. This was one of the worst cases of insta-love I’ve ever witnessed. Kali literally falls in love with the first guy she’s ever seen. That’s not an exaggeration! Kali has never seen or met a man before Deven and the instant she sees him she’s all *swoons*. But Deven’s reaction time is just as bad! They’ve only had about three minor interactions before they’re falling all over each other and kissing and professing their love and are all “I would die for you!” And what’s worse is that Kali has every reason to be wary and scared of men because before she’d ever met a man, all she’d heard was horror stories fro her best friend. Yet she throws all past knowledge aside for literally the first hot guy she sees?! Spare me, please.

But the issue of inst-love pales in comparison to how problematic this book is, in regards to representation of Eastern and Indian cultures.

Now there are three very important things I need to say before I launch into my final complaint.

  1. I am fully aware that this books is a fantasy. That being said, The Hundredth Queen is so based on Indian culture that King (the author) felt it necessary to include an author’s note at the beginning saying that all apparent similarities to real historic figures is coincidental and not intended to offend.
  2. I am NOT Indian. I have NO right to really speak on what is good representation of Indian culture.
  3. You must understand that, as a person of color myself, I am not one to cry “cultural appropriation!” anytime a White person even gets near another culture. I fully support White people exploring and appreciating and sharing in the richness of other cultures. THAT BEING SAID! This book? It honestly reeks of poorly veiled cultural appropriation and exoticism.

So. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way. This book made me really uneasy, representation wise. I understand that this is not a direct representation of India. But it is merely a step sideways, a thin and tattered veil over Indian culture. And I’m not quite sold on the fact that King did a good job handling it.

Why? It just felt like King had chosen Indian culture not because she appreciated and respected it, but rather because she felt it was “exotic.” I can’t fully describe what exact passages made me feel this way, it was just a general…feeling

But it was also the old, tired tropes that King chose to use in portraying an Eastern culture. They were tropes we’ve seen a lot of and not only could you claim they were lazy tropes, but they were also slightly offensive. In The Hundredth Queen we get more than our fill of the Tyranical Sultan/King/Leader™ trope, in addition to the Sultan With A Harem Of Literally Hundreds Of Women™ trope and the Patriarchal Eastern Society™ trope. *Cue infinite eye rolls and head-desks from me* Must we really with these tropes about Easterners? Especially in 2017 America where those of us who are Middle Eastern and/or South Central Asian continue to be stereotyped so negatively?!

So…yeah. This book gets a 2.75 stars (rounded up to 3 stars) from me. It was fun, yes, but it also had me shaking my head at many points. I’ll probably read the second book, just for fun, but i’m not fully committed to it yet…